Volunteer

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One Brick volunteers help at a soup kitchen.
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Volunteers fit new windows at The Sumac Centre in Nottingham, UK.

A volunteer is someone who serves in a community primarily because they choose to do so. Many serve through a non-profit organization – sometimes referred to as formal volunteering, but a significant number also serve less formally, either individually or as part of a group. Because these informal volunteers are much harder to identify, they may not be included in research and statistics on volunteering.

Beyond personal choice, a number of factors exist around individual motivation and around the rewards for doing service within the community. There is in most cases a range of opinions about the point at which this service changes from volunteering to something else.

Contents

[edit] Motivations and rewards - Why do we volunteer?

Each person's motivations will be unique — but will often be a combination of the following:

Altruism – voluntering for the benefit of others. Most people argue that there are no purely altruistic volunteers – altruism is a common motivation but never the only motivation for sustained commitment to serve – there is always some aspect of personal gain or satisfaction

Quality of life — serving community because doing service makes ones own life better — is perhaps the most significant motivation for volunteering. It is often mixed with a good dose of altruism. Included here would be the benefits people get from being with other people, staying active, and above all having a sense of the value of ourselves in society that may not be as clear in other areas of life.

Giving Back — many people have in some way benefited from the work of an organization, or more generally, and volunteer to give back.

A sense of duty — some see participation in community as a responsibility that comes with citizenship – in this case they may not describe themselves as volunteers

Financial — Being motivated by finances is not generally included within the definition of volunteering. Some organizations are able to pay the expenses of a volunteer, others provide what is essentially a stipend or honorarium. Generally speaking, the higher the stipend, the more difficult it is to claim that a service is volunteering.

Career Experience — Volunteering offers experiences that can add to career prospects and many employers value volunteering experience.

Social Reasons — Volunteering is a good way to meet a lot of different people from other walks of life and it is often easy to make new friends.

[edit] Recognition

The year 2001 was the International Year of the Volunteer, as designated by the United Nations. Every 5 December is International Volunteer Day, also designated by the United Nations. 2005 was the United Kingdom Year of the Volunteer.

[edit] Common terms

International volunteer — a person who volunteers outside of his or her own country, usually related in some way to a development program.

Online volunteer (virtual volunteer, cyber service, telementor, e-volunteer, cyber volunteer) — a person who contributes time and effort with an organization through an online connection, rather than or in addition to onsite service. The practice was first researched and detailed by the Virtual Volunteering Project [1].

Online volunteers do a variety of tasks, such as translating documents, proofreading books, editing or preparing proposals, designing logos, researching information, developing strategic plans, reviewing budgets, creating web pages, designing flash presentations, moderating online discussion groups and managing other online volunteers. Online volunteers may support organizations in their own community, or entirely remotely (such as Wikipedia).

ICT volunteer — someone who uses Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as a central part of his or her service, or, who advocates for ICT access for under-serviced communities.

MMORPG Volunteer — often MMORPGs have Volunteers (or "Vols") who are unpaid staff that will moderate the game. A Volunteer can perform simple operations such as banning a player from the game, or silencing an abusive player. Volunteers are often used to lighten the workload for the GMs (Game Masters) who usually contribute mainly towards the server based operations (such as server maintenance).

Museum volunteer — many museums have unpaid volunteers as well as paid staff invlved in their running. They may act as gallery attendants, work on the collection catalogue, look after the museum shop, etc., as required. Smaller museums are often entirely run by volunteers.

[edit] Statistics and trends

For extensive statistics, regularly updated, on volunteering in the USA, see the Independent Sector, the Corporation for National and Community Service ,and the Points of Light Foundation, and in Canada, Volunteer Canada

[edit] "Mandatory volunteering" - Mandatory Community Service

Main article: Community service

"Mandatory Volunteering" is term in informal usage to include various forms of community service in which the primary motivator is external to the individual — when people are mandated to serve by one authority or another — examples include:

  1. a high school student being required to provide so many hours of community service to a nonprofit organization in order to graduate,
  2. a high school or college student engaged in service learning, using a volunteering experience to apply skills learned in the classroom and to meet a requirement to pass the class, or
  3. a person convicted of a misdemeanor being required to provide such community service as part of his or her sentence. Some organizations require members to provide a certain number of community services as well.

In recent years, mandated community service has been on the rise, driven by increasingly cash strapped (and perhaps more humanitarian) correctional systems, and by moves to encourage the notion of 'active citizenship' in youth. Many in the voluntary sector argue that they are expected, often with no additional funding, to pick up these functions from justice and educational systems.

Controversy exists around the terminology used — 'Mandatory volunteering' is seen as oxymoronic, since definitions of volunteering overwhelmingly include the element of free choice to act. Many opponents of the term also see a threat to the spirit of volunteering if it becomes contaminated with notions of force and punishment. Ironically, there is some indication that the term originated in the voluntary sector itself — the sector now most keen to clarify the difference between volunteering and mandated activity. A term that allows clearer definition is "Mandatory Community Service".

Controversy also exists around some aspects of mandated community service. The effects of forcing some people to serve — on both their future commitment to community and the commitments of others — are largely unknown. Many managers of volunteers note that managing those on mandatory programs is different to managing volunteers, not least because motivation is a key underlying theme in volunteer management, but also because some MCS programming requires elements that may not exist at all in a volunteer program — policing and reporting being notable examples.

(Although it is by no means a universal sentiment, this quote reflects the strength of one persons reaction: Suellen Carlson, the Director of Volunteers, at Lutheran Social Services in New York. "I no longer do someone else's job for them. The judge will have to find another way to punish someone other than punishing me in the process. I don't want to chase anyone, get nasty phone calls from someone who has to get in so many hours by a certain time (usually within the next couple of days). I am not interested in surly teenagers who are only putting in their time (and, whose mother has usually made the first call).")

[edit] Linking websites and agencies

Some organizations provide the links between organizations that need volunteers, and the individuals who wish to volunteer, and may have little or no role in arranging the volunteer program.

For example, in the field of international development and development charities, Global Hand[2] provides a register of volunteers as well as donors of goods and services; The Taproot Foundation provides teams of Marketing, Information Technology, and Human Resources consultants on specialized "Service Grants"; RedR-IHE maintains a register of experienced professionals, including engineers, who are willing to volunteer; Engineers Without Borders (in some countries at least) also links its members with other NGO's rather than running separate projects. Some of these such as Travel to Teach,*Global Citizen Journey Global Citizen Journey i-to-i and The Global Volunteer Network link volunteers and organizations globally; some are more local in scope, such as One Brick in North America, uVolunteer in Latin America, SEEK Volunteer in Australia, or Volunteer Now in New Zealand; and then there are those like iVolunteer in India, Thai-Experiencein Thailand or ikando in Ghana which focus on volunteer placement in one country while recruiting volunteers globally; An there is a free global network of non-commercial volunteer organisations at independentvolunteer.org. Aura's House provides volunteers and donors the ability to participate in projects around the world from Africa, Central American, India and more. Aura's House sets up rotating online fundraising projects.

Charity Guide[3] lists volunteering opportunities by topic such as poverty and environment, with links to relevant organizations. Suggestions ranging from 15 minute individual "acts of kindness" through to volunteer vacations in the volunteer's area of interest.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Look up volunteer in
Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

el:Εθελοντισμός fr:Bénévolat it:Volontariato he:התנדבות lt:Savanorystė nl:Vrijwilliger ja:ボランティア pl:Wolontariat sv:Volontär th:อาสาสมัคร zh:志愿者

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